I was taking a language exam that asked us to finish writing an essay. Because of COVID, the exam went online and used Canvas as the platform. Neither scratch paper nor any other software was allowed so we had to use the textbox to draft the outline. The textbox was tiny. Therefore, I had to scroll the sidebar and I could not see what I wrote at the beginning while proofreading.

I finished the essay and submitted it. However, after submission, I realized I did not remove the draft outline at the beginning of my essay and submitted it as well.

The exam was super important for me and I am now literally freaked out. Is it going to be a huge problem? What should I do?

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    There is really no reason to assume this is a problem, but if you're concerned you should contact your instructor as soon as possible. There is every chance they'll be understanding (and every chance they'll understand what the situation is before getting your explanation), but taking what is really the only constructive action available at this point may help you relax. Jan 26, 2021 at 7:14
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    How on earth should we know how your instructor reacts to this (or anything)?
    – user111388
    Jan 26, 2021 at 8:14
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    @AnonymousPhysicist It's constructive because it may help the OP to relax about the situation. I agree that the instructor will be able to tell what happened; the real problem here is the anxiety the OP feels. Jan 26, 2021 at 9:25
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    @AnonymousPhysicist Of course the instructor cannot and should not be expected to address the OP's anxiety; that was not my suggestion at all. It's the act of sending the message itself that can help assuage that anxiety, especially if the OP has a hard time sharing our confidence that the instructor will understand and handle the situation appropriately in any case. Jan 26, 2021 at 10:40
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    @AnonymousPhysicist I have to say, I certainly don't want to live in a society where you are supposed to go see a psychiatrist instead of simply writing a short friendly e-mail to clear up the source of the anxiety.
    – Nobody
    Jan 26, 2021 at 20:26

2 Answers 2


Probably not.

But there is really only one person that knows for sure: the professor in question. So, as Mark Meckes already mentioned in the comments, send them a message, explain that you forgot to remove the draft outline at the beginning of your essay and ask them to ignore that part, and to exclude it from the word count limit if applicable.

Be aware that you might not get a response if the professor is busy, which doesn't mean there is a problem.


Making a mistake on an exam is, in most cases, not a huge problem.

Exams are, by definition, a measurement of the work you can do during an exam. In most cases, you cannot do anything about a mistake on an exam after the exam is over.

Move on to the next stage of your studies/career. If you continue to feel distressed, seek assistance from a mental health professional.

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    I don't see how that answers the question. There are very important exams, and one standard disclaimer that is often encountered is that if you submit multiple solutions to the same question, neither of them will be graded, so the OP's fear seems perfectly justified. OP is also justified, in my opinion, in hoping for some understanding and lenciency in this case, which might be granted only if asked for.
    – Nobody
    Jan 26, 2021 at 20:20
  • @Nobody "one standard disclaimer that is often encountered is that if you submit multiple solutions to the same question, neither of them will be graded," Never heard of that, and it's a bad policy. I'd really expect the asker not be penalized, but we can't read the grader's mind. Jan 26, 2021 at 21:35
  • That was pretty standard in the engineering/math courses I took. You had to submit one and only one answer for each question. Jan 26, 2021 at 22:00
  • Maybe it makes sense for engineering or medicine, where you really have to get things right the first time. But this is a language exam. Also, an outline obviously is not an essay. Jan 26, 2021 at 22:02

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